May 17, 2018 : Qatar Airways group chief executive Akbar Al Baker recently gave an account of how a regional blockade that is now approaching the end of one year, has affected the economy of the State of Qatar. He also lashed out at ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization) accusing it of responding in a “timid and disappointing” manner to the coordinated blockade. Al Baker was addressing the European Parliament’s Committee on Transport and Tourism (TRAN).

Explaining that he was at the IATA (International Air Transport Association) AGM in Cancun when the event unfolded, a 22 hour return journey ensued to see Qatar Airways CEO return home to guide his airline in response to this unprecedented episode.

The airline claims that the extreme violations were carried out without provocation and without a mandate from the UN Security Council or any other international body. It also says that the clear intention of the blockading states was to endanger the economy of the State of Qatar by threatening the livelihood of residents, but the State of Qatar and Qatar Airways responded to protect the nation, the people, the economy and the airline’s customers.

With 18 air corridors immediately reduced to just two corridors elaborate measures were necessary to assure safe operations in to and out of Qatar. In the middle of the holy month of Ramadan, the normal flow of goods and basic supplies such as medicine, food and water, was dangerously interrupted.

Qatar Airways offices were reportedly closed by force and without prior notice by local authorities in the blockade states. These actions, perpetrated without warning, imposed significant human hardship on the families separated as a result. Al Baker drew a poignant and stark contrast between the sense of isolation felt by Qatar residents as a result of the blockade and other dark moments in history such as the erection of the Berlin Wall during the Cold War.

During the impassioned speech Al Baker condemned ICAO for what he called a “timid and disappointing” response, at the same time he called on the world to condemn such “reckless political manoeuvres that violate fundamental norms of international aviation”.

He also added, “I would also like to personally thank the members of the European Union for their support amidst the extraordinary illegal blockade against my home country, with notable thanks to MEP Mr. Ismail Ertug, who made today’s event in Brussels possible.”

The tiny oil- and gas-rich Gulf state of Qatar has been cut off by some of its powerful Arab neighbours over its alleged support for terrorism.

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